18th June 2024
Daniel Brown at his home-based workstation. Dan is relaxed, leaning against his desk, smiling broadly and wearing a tee shirt. Three monitors, a tablet, and an Apple Studio are visible. Behind him, on the wall, hang buitars and a banjo.
Daniel Brown at his home-based workstation. Photographs by Harper Brown.

What’s it wish to work at a completely distributed firm with a worldwide staff and tradition guided by a Creed? Welcome to “Life @ Automattic,” a sequence of Q&As with the individuals behind the merchandise. Right now we converse with Daniel Brown, a Technical Account Supervisor for Newspack.

Who’re you, and what do you do?

I’ve two easy qualities that outline me: depart issues higher than when I discovered them, and empower others to do the identical. This has grown out of being a father of two nice children, and having a powerful optimistic outlook. Automattic pushes me to exhibit these qualities in my function as a Technical Account Supervisor (TAM) for Newspack, working with information organizations and publications everywhere in the world. We assist migrate these publications from their present net stack over to WordPress below Newspack. A part of this dedication consists of translating the writer’s imaginative and prescient right into a Newspack resolution to ensure that the staff and publication to turn out to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient. However that doesn’t imply we depart them to their very own gadgets as soon as they’re right here.  We examine in repeatedly to verify they’re nonetheless on a path to achieve success.  

We’re half developer, half educator, and all empathizer. – Daniel Brown

What precisely is a TAM? What better-known tech roles, if any, does it map to?

A TAM is a mission supervisor that may discuss store round technical particulars and assist translate options into sustainable options. Extra importantly, we assist fulfill the promise of WordPress by constructing relationships with our publishers. That promise facilities round our publishers being able to speak and specific their values to their communities. We’re half developer, half educator, and all empathizer. This is the reason a TAM function is essential, as we create belief within the product, belief within the course of, and belief within the end result.

What did you do earlier than you labored right here? How, if in any respect, did it examine? How did it lead you right here?

Earlier than Automattic, I labored as an IT director for an actual property firm, and lived within the stereotypical company workplace job. Between sleep, work, and commuting, I may solely commit just a few hours a day to my household, and none in any respect to myself.  The work wasn’t satisfying and the advantages didn’t outweigh the grind. As with every job, TAM’s nonetheless have a grind, however I’d somewhat be grinding on diamonds than stone. It’s way more significant and rewarding.

Describe a typical day at work.

A typical day at work: Daniel goes nuts on his Gibson guitar.

Every day work can really feel a bit like being a phone operator from the 1950’s. It entails digesting info, conveying it, and connecting one channel to a different. Connecting the writer’s expectations to the engineer’s work to extend the effectivity of the migration. Connecting classes realized again to the gross sales staff, to allow them to assist set higher expectations, permitting us to ship on practical targets. Connecting characteristic requests to the product staff to assist fill gaps when rolling out new variations of Newspack. To do all that successfully, it’s essential to keep on high of a number of shifting components. So my calendar is time-blocked for just a little little bit of every thing — together with psychological breaks.

As a TAM at Automattic, what’s one of many extra thrilling tasks (or milestones) that you just’ve had the chance to work on?

Bethesda Journal got here to Newspack as a result of their present net stack was failing. Their workflows weren’t scalable, including editorial content material was gradual, and so they have been trying to turn out to be extra environment friendly by utilizing the instruments Newspack needed to supply. As a TAM, I began to map out the positioning and found that they have been utilizing customized put up varieties for his or her listings product – put up varieties which didn’t fairly match into the Newspack mould. As we have been approaching our launch timeline, and our launch engineers have been engaged on migrating different publications, it put me in an ungainly scenario. 

That is the second of my breakthrough. Uncertain the right way to handle the scenario, I consulted different TAMs. With their assist, I used to be capable of break down the customized posts right into a easy course of that has basically modified the best way I strategy future migrations.

Beforehand, I moderately assumed all knowledge, configurations, and particulars have been essential and have to be migrated. Because it seems, Bethesda was wanting to maneuver away from the best way they have been doing issues, and, so long as we may recapture the spirit of the product they have been offering, they’d no points forsaking the failed processes even when it meant a lack of knowledge.

Armed with this new understanding, I used to be capable of parse the info into two teams: what was important to the product and what was not. This allowed me to finish the migration with higher effectivity and with out the necessity to derail our engineers from their different migrations. Bethesda have since rebranded to Moco360, and are nonetheless having fun with life on Newspack.

The man and his best friend.

What strategies have you ever give you to ensure you take breaks? Any ideas you may share?

There are just a few other ways I’ve gotten artistic with breaks. The perfect one I discovered is to have chunk dimension hobbies. Chew dimension hobbies are hobbies you could have interaction in and exit shortly. Strolling the canine and ingesting a lot of water are nice methods to step away from the pc, however having a chunk dimension passion that genuinely pushes you has a number of advantages. It creates enrichment, and channels private progress. For me, I power myself to select up the guitar and follow chords for a couple of minutes. Do that over the course of a month, you’ll start to get good on the guitar.

And there are a great deal of chunk dimension hobbies you could begin. Research a brand new language, be taught to juggle, put in a couple of minutes on the easel, trim a houseplant, sculpt with Play-Doh, be taught to throw darts, or follow a yoga pose… okay, so my spouse had some questions when she walked into my workplace on that final one, however the level is, you may develop a expertise or passion that matches inside your psychological breaks, and it turns into as routine as checking your Slack messages. Keep per it, and turn out to be knowledgeable at it inside a brief period of time. Tumblr movies elective after all. 😉

“That is the one place I’ve ever labored the place I really feel I can carry out for the sake of the shopper, not for the sake of the job.”

What are some challenges you’ve confronted, and the way did you overcome them?

If you do what you like, it’s straightforward to need to put in additional effort than you’re able to. You will need to bear in mind to deal with your self first, in any other case everybody else will obtain you at your worst. It can be crucial to not burn out as, to the companion, you’re not simply the face of the corporate, you are the corporate. When navigating with publishers, their impression of WordPress and Newspack is coming straight from the experiences you’re creating. That may create a number of weight, however you’re by no means lifting alone. Be susceptible together with your staff and place your belief in them. Mine has supported me by difficult conditions, and helped to shine mild in areas I couldn’t see.  

What’s distinctive or uncommon in regards to the work you do at Automattic? 

Automattic itself is exclusive, as I really consider they nurture the abilities and abilities I convey to the desk. My staff is aware of and values my strengths, and helps me with alternatives to train and enhance them. That is the one place I’ve ever labored the place I really feel I can carry out for the sake of the shopper, not for the sake of the job. I can focus my time on creating a tremendous expertise for the writer, somewhat than surviving a dog-eat-dog surroundings.

Dan at his desk, making the universal "talk to the hand" gesture ... but with a big old grin on his face.

What retains you going? What will get you charged as much as come to work within the morning?

I’m the individual behind the counter serving ice cream to children. It’s the good analogy for the TAM function.I will be opinionated about which flavors go nicely with totally different toppings. I will be artistic within the deliverables and specific my character by my work. I can accumulate info round excessive demand menu objects or site visitors patterns, and supply suggestions the place wanted. 

However the most effective a part of the analogy is that I’m making a distinction in somebody’s life  — like exhibiting an excited baby a brand new taste of ice cream, or  serving to a brand new romantic couple uncover their  “official first taste” on a primary date.  I create the identical feeling for the writer who has been struggling to put up content material for years on account of a failing net stack. Or the writer who needed to keep late day-after-day to load content material in 5 totally different locations — and may now go house on time as a result of they’ll create full content material in a single location. 

Skilled publishers are excited to maneuver to our platform as a result of it provides them a contemporary outlook on their website and removes the burdens they’ve carried for years. In different circumstances, I assist construct confidence in an individual trying to begin a brand new website, and supply them with a gradual basis as they develop. Both means, it’s recreation altering, and I need to be part of that.

What recommendation would you give to somebody who needs to get into TAM work at Automattic?

The TAM function will be overwhelming when first beginning out. So there are some competencies which might be value having, similar to organizational expertise, multi-tasking (extra particularly context switching), and sympathy. When you concentrate on constructing your talent units in these areas, not solely will you do nicely by not getting caught up within the mechanics of the function, however you‘ll benefit from the impactful and significant outcomes of the TAM profession at Automattic.

Thanks for spending time with us, Daniel! 


Based in 2005 by Matt Mullenweg, the co-creator of WordPress software program, Automattic has been acknowledged as one of many world’s most modern corporations. We’re the tech powerhouse behind WordPress.com, Newspack, WooCommerce, Jetpack, WordPress VIP, Simplenote, Longreads, WPScan, Akismet, Gravatar, Crowdsignal, Cloudup, Tumblr, Day One, Pocket Casts, and extra. As of immediately, there are over 1950 Automatticians in 95 nations talking 120 totally different languages. Possibly you will be one in every of us.

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